Florida’s Open for Business: South Florida

Destinations

The Palm Beaches

38 flavors, all irresistibly good

Palm Beach County has 38 municipalities, nearly 1.5 million residents and stretches east to west from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Okeechobee. Most visitors know the glitzy old dowager of Palm Beach itself, separated from the mainland by the Lake Worth Lagoon, for its legendary resorts, Gilded Age mansions and historic landmarks. Other well-known cities include West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Among the many signature experiences available to groups is the new Conservation Course at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium—an 18-hole miniature putting green with a conservation mission. Each hole is named for an animal or plant native to the Florida Everglades; it also boasts a large butterfly haven and landscaping strategically designed to replicate the wetlands found in the Everglades’ grassy waters.

Those drawn to the allure of Palm Beach can take driving, biking and garden tours conducted by Island Living Tours. Or, during winter months (aka, The Season), tours hosted by Worth Avenue Association lead groups on a one hour, 15-minute stroll past Worth Avenue’s grand villas.

The Spa at PGA National Resort & Spa, a top-rated Conde Nast Traveler facility with an abundance of meeting space, has a fresh look. The 40,000-square-foot, European-style spa has been upgraded. And the Palmer Course has a fresh architectural feel to meet demands of the modern golf game.

New in accommodations is the 200-room, 13-story Hyatt Place Boca Raton/Downtown. Its 4,000 sq. ft. of flexible event space can seat up to 200 people, with an outdoor terrace for another 200. In West Palm Beach, two blocks from CityPlace—an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex—a new, 150-room, 14-story Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach-Downtown will open in late 2018.

Assistance from Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing group, includes FreeRide, gas-free electric shuttles to ferry attendees from Palm Beach Convention Center to popular local spots.

Meeting planners have embraced such value-adds. “The experienced staffs of Discover The Palm Beaches Destination Services and partnering hotels all worked in concert to accommodate our complex housing and event-shuttle requirements,” enthuses David Renzi, director of meetings and advertising for American Helicopter Society International. “We could not have been more pleased.”

Don’t Miss

The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches is Florida’s newest two-team—the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals—spring-training complex. During the season, groups can be seated together to watch the action. Anytime, the complex features many state-of-the-art amenities on 160 acres for meetings and events. In addition to the 6,500-seat stadium, there are eight full baseball fields, two practice mounds per field, five uncovered batting cages and seven multi-sport fields. Not to mention suites, party decks and flexible stadium areas.

Meet Here Now

The Breakers, iconic since 1896, is a AAA Five Diamond resort that epitomizes oceanfront luxury in Palm Beach. In addition to 538 well-appointed guest rooms, there’s 80,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space. The new Flagler Club adds 25 more guest rooms and a boutique hotel ambience. The Breakers Ocean Course is the state’s most venerable 18-hole golf course.

Palm Beach County Convention Center keeps upping its game. Among this year’s additions is an eight-story, connected parking garage. The facility, which offers 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, a 22,000-square-foot ballroom and 21,000 sq. ft. of breakout space, has covered access to Hilton West Palm Beach (pictured), making it the only convention center in Florida to be directly connected to a hotel via enclosed walkway.

The Brazilian Court in Palm Beach has 30 years on The Breakers, and its historic Spanish Colonial exterior, accented by emerald tropical courtyards and gushing fountains, give it indelible character. With only 80 guest rooms, it reeks intimacy and luxury getaway for incentives and smaller groups. The event space totals 3,500 sq. ft. Plus, its Cafe Boulud offers a nontraditional, stimulating space that fosters a positive meeting environment alongside world-class cuisine from chef Rick Mace, protege of world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud.

Fort Lauderdale

Sunny with a chance of sunny

“We are blessed for sure,” said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, after Hurricane Irma left Broward County all but unscathed. Hotels along her coastline reported no real damage. But the truth is, Greater Fort Lauderdale is blessed in many ways. Start with 3,000 hours of sunshine annually—an average of more than eight hours every day of the year. Add more than 300 miles of inland waterways, which is why Greater Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of America. And throw in 23 miles of Blue Wave-certified beaches.

It’s seldom a dull day in Fort Lauderdale, and unique, affordable events await. For example, Friday Night Sound Waves rocks with free live music every Friday night (March–November) on Fort Lauderdale Beach. In early January and again in early March, Las Olas Art Fair is a must-see freebie in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Broward County boasts more than 34,000 guest rooms, and nearly $1 billion is currently being invested to build and renovate area hotels. Expansions of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Port Everglades have also added to the county’s standing as a major player in the meetings industry.

New on the hotel scene is Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, with 290 all-suite accommodations, indoor and outdoor dining venues, a 4,000-square-foot, ocean-view spa and fitness center, Sky Deck oasis with heated pool and cabanas, as well as 10,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting and event space.

Newly renovated properties include 517-room W Fort Lauderdale, 484-room B Ocean Resort (with more than 14,000 sq. ft. of newly designed, indoor and outdoor meeting spaces), 298-room The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort and 296-room Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort-a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is expanding, too. Plans call for more than 400,000 sq. ft. of new indoor and outdoor space, accompanied by an upscale, 800-room Omni Hotel & Resorts property that will bring an additional 73,000 sq. ft. of space.

Other can’t-miss meeting venues include historic 1920s Bonnet House; Village at Gulfstream Park, an upscale complex for shopping, dining, gaming and horse racing with a 350,000-square-foot clubhouse; Museum of Discovery & Science, for up to 3,000 guests; Broward Center for the Performing Arts, for an event or reception; and NSU Art Museum, for meetings and team-building art classes.

Don’t Miss

The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches is Florida’s newest two-team—the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals—spring-training complex. During the season, groups can be seated together to watch the action. Anytime, the complex features many state-of-the-art amenities on 160 acres for meetings and events. In addition to the 6,500-seat stadium, there are eight full baseball fields, two practice mounds per field, five uncovered batting cages and seven multi-sport fields. Not to mention suites, party decks and flexible stadium areas.

Meet Here Now

Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood underwent a $100 million transformation and has 10 all-new culinary experiences meant to deliver an all-encompassing group experience and helmed by celebrity chefs, including Geoffrey Zakarian’s Point Royal (pictured) and Michael Schulson’s Monkitail. The resort features 1,000 guest rooms and 209,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with a spa, golf course, boat rentals and yoga on the beach.

Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is the first convention center in Florida to earn LEED certification and the third in the nation to achieve LEED Gold certification for an existing facility. From water conservation to energy-efficient lighting, recycling and more, the 600,000 square-foot facility is an energy-efficient, environmentally sound, carbon-neutral model of sustainability.

Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort—yes, it was inspired by the “no worries,” life’s-a-beach worldview of singer, songwriter and author Jimmy Buffet—is both a destination resort and entertainment complex on famed, funky Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Meetings overlook the Atlantic Ocean, with 30,000 sq. ft. of combined indoor and outdoor event space (more than 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space).

Miami

Sky’s the limit

Just days after the passage of Hurricane Irma, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau put its welcome mat for groups in place again. And two hotels—Loews Miami Beach and Fontainebleau Miami Beach—did indeed host large group meetings in mid-September. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, publicly urged IMN, which mounts institutional finance and investment conferences, to keep to its original schedule at Fontainebleau. And Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co., personally greeted the other group, Ruckus Wireless Inc. at his hotel.

Afterward, Ian Whiting, chief commercial officer for Ruckus, said, “There is no better time to come to Miami Beach than now—the city is back in business.”

This upward-and-onward striving is characteristic of modern Miami—no longer a sleepy retirement haven, refuge for shivering New Yorkers and working-class melting pot for Caribbean expats. Even those who grew up in Greater Miami can hardly recognize the place of their childhood.

Yes, it is still the sky’s-the-limit development mecca poked fun at by Carl Hiaasen novels. But these days it is so much more, an international city that bristles with excitement and burns with energy.

Miami Beach Convention Center is now closing in on completion of a $600 million renovation that will make it competitive with any meeting space in the South. When finished in the third quarter of next year, the convention center will have 505,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, a new 60,000-square-foot ballroom, 59,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 12 acres of parks and urban landscaping. An adjoining historic 1916 structure, Carl Fisher Clubhouse—named for the 1900s entrepreneur known as father of Miami Beach—is being restored for special events. Meantime, the completed east half of the convention center has already started hosting events.

New hotels worth special mention include the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Brickell in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Brickell, a new hot spot for bars, restaurants and museums. Under-statedly stylish, its 124 rooms have a minimalist vibe. More than 58,000 sq. ft. of Starck-imagined indoor and outdoor event space featuring the latest tech provides a hip urban setting for meetings or events. James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Andres supplies the vibrant flavors of Miami.

Don’t Miss

The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches is Florida’s newest two-team—the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals—spring-training complex. During the season, groups can be seated together to watch the action. Anytime, the complex features many state-of-the-art amenities on 160 acres for meetings and events. In addition to the 6,500-seat stadium, there are eight full baseball fields, two practice mounds per field, five uncovered batting cages and seven multi-sport fields. Not to mention suites, party decks and flexible stadium areas.

Meet Here Now

Nobu Hotel Eden Roc offers two hotels with one Miami Beach address. Nobu Hotel’s Zen aesthetic is meant to evoke a contemporary Japanese beach house, while Eden Roc Resort offers an iconic convergence of modern and classic. The two-venues-in-one offer 621 guest rooms and 75,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Trump National Doral Miami is nothing if not flashy first-class, with four championship golf courses (including the feared Blue Monster) and golf academy, 643 guest rooms, 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a 24-hour game room, four restaurants, the Trump Spa and bike rentals.

JW Marriott Marquis Miami is for downtown lovers—near Frost Science Museum, Perez Art Museum and Wynwood Arts District. A Metromover (monorail) stop is near at hand for free transport to American Airlines Arena and Bayside Market Place. The hotel features 313 guest rooms and 41,917 sq. ft. of event space.

The Keys

Still unlike anywhere else

This delicate string of tropical pearls stretching some 120 miles off the southern tip of mainland Florida began working nonstop to get back into its $1.6 billion-a-year tourism game almost from the moment the winds abated. By now, the fixing-up and rebuilding are in advanced stages (if not complete) in most locations, but one hallmark never got shuttered—love of the Keys way of life, and an eagerness to share it with the outside world.

“After a Hurricane Comes a Rainbow,” proclaimed a billboard in Key Largo.

Small- to medium-sized meetings (up to about 135) are perfect for the Keys. Especially when attendees are encouraged to take time—before, during or after official business—to savor the fresh-from-the-sea cuisine and relaxed visitor activities.

Groups can make chocolates at the Keys’ only chocolatier or tour Keys’ Meads, the Keys’ first meadery—an ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey—in Key Largo. Or visit the world’s only licensed veterinary hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of sea turtles, returning them to the wild when healed, in Marathon. Swimming with dolphins and other experiential activities such as glass-bottom boat tours can be booked throughout the Keys.

Key West activities abound: Haunted Key West offers a Hauntings Ghost Tour for up to 30 people that includes the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, with human and feline ghosts. A new Key West Room Escape team-building activity is offered at Casa Antigua, built in 1919; “Escape the Study” challenges groups of two to eight to figure out clues and solve puzzles in a fun, themed environment; two more rooms, called Jail Break Havana and Pirate Treasure Hunt, are soon to be unveiled.

Lodging options for groups are expanding. The Keys’ first all-inclusive resort will come to Key Largo early next year. The adults-only, all-inclusive Bungalows Key Largo, a 13-acre, 135-unit, luxury property is intended for corporate retreats, meetings and leisure travelers. Guest rooms will average 800 sq. ft. and include private plunge pools or outdoor tubs.

In Key West, the 178-room Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina (formerly The Westin Key West Resort & Marina) has refreshed rooms and suites. Margaritaville features 16,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor function space.

Don’t Miss

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encompasses more than 2,900-square-nautical miles of teeming marine life surrounding the Florida Keys. But now you don’t even have to get wet to experience the best it has to offer. In a new virtual dive gallery, Keys dive sites can be viewed with a virtual reality headset or goggles. The gallery includes Christ of the Abyss in the Key Largo Dry Docks Sanctuary Preservation Area; Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary Preservation Area, with soft and brain corals; Benwood Wreck, which sank in 1942; and a coral nursery.

Meet Here Now

Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection in Key Largo is the first new-build resort in the Upper Keys in 21 years. This 144-room, luxury property on 14 acres features more than 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, three upscale restaurants, a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, a pool with a 1,200-square-foot deck, 10 secluded bungalows, a three-bedroom beach house with private plunge pool, a full-service spa and a 6,000-square-foot beach. Kosher groups can be accommodated.

Casa Marina and The Reach, Waldorf Astoria Resorts, provide some of the most robust meetings capabilities in the region. Casa Marina dates to 1920, and The Reach was added in the 1980s. Both sit on the largest private beach in Key West, in easy walking distance to all downtown attractions. Combined guest rooms total 461. Event space and reception areas including The Reach’s gazebo pier and a rooftop overlooking town. Combined indoor meeting space is 15,706 sq. ft.

Rum Distillery & Experience Center, a former tobacco warehouse, now houses Key West’s newest distillery. It’s operated by Hemingway Rum Co., makers of Papa’s Pilar premium sipping rums (Pilar was the name of Ernest “Papa” Hemingway’s boat). An 1,800-square-foot event center to accommodate up to 125 will open in the second quarter of 2018. Meantime, the 8,200-square-foot distillery, tasting room and trading post can be rented after-hours for up to 200 people. Catering is available, as are mixologists.

Collier County

The coast is clear in paradise

Florida’s southwestern coast is like that old joke about the blind men describing an elephant. Even the name of the official tourism organization, Naples, Marco Island and Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, illustrates the difficulty of describing the whole by its parts. Luxurious Naples couldn’t be more sedate and refined. The Everglades couldn’t be more wild and raw. Marco Island, largest of the area’s Ten Thousand Islands and edged by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and pristine mangrove estuaries on the other, is somewhere in between.

Solution: Call it the Paradise Coast.

As expected, there’s lots to do in paradise—more than 30 miles of beaches, for starters, including many deserted beach islands for picnics accessible only by boat. One of the most interesting activities for groups or families is a cruise on Dolphin Explorer, where passengers serve as “citizen scientists” to assist dolphin researchers.

A thriving arts scene features dynamic exhibits at institutions such as renowned Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery, Marco Island Center for the Arts and The Baker Museum at Artis-Naples, which is also home to Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, Broadway productions and concerts.

Naples was named by Conde Nast Traveler as one of America’s Best Food Cities, and options span the gamut from waterfront cafes to sophisticated, five-star restaurants. Everglades City is known as Stone Crab Capital of the World, and provides restaurants throughout Florida with this fresh delicacy from mid-October through mid-May of each year, the official stone crab season.

Hyatt House Naples/Fifth Avenue is the first new hotel to open in Naples since 2008. The 183-room property boasts an Old Florida feel. The hotel offers 3,160 sq. ft. of meeting space and a spacious waterfront restaurant and bar, Latitude 26.

Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee recently added a new 99-room hotel to its entertainment complex northeast of Naples. The only gaming destination in southwest Florida, the complex’s Seminole Center features 10,000 sq. ft. of event space with seating for up to 750 guests.

Among prominent, recently renovated hotels, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa stands out. The $40 million redo at this AAA Four Diamond, boutique resort with 310 guest rooms gives it floor-to-ceiling views to the beach from the lobby, new dining options and 12,000 sq. ft. of upgraded meeting space.

Don’t Miss

Everglades National Park, just south of Naples and Marco Island, is the only subtropical preserve in North America and a World Heritage Site. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center, one of three main entrances to the park, is in Everglades City, an Old Florida-style town on the edge of the wilderness. It provides access to Ten Thousand Islands and Wilderness Waterway sections of the park, where groups can access this saltwater wonderland area by boat tour, fishing charter and guided paddling adventures. More than 80 percent of Collier County is dedicated to parks and nature preserves, with much of this area covered by the Everglades ecosystem and its many inhabitants, including hundreds of species of colorful birds, fresh and saltwater fish, alligators, bobcats, Florida black bear and the endangered Florida panther. Just outside Everglades City is expansive Big Cypress National Preserve, which provides even more and varied outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, paddling, biking and several wilderness drives.

Meet Here Now

JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort (formerly Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort) opened this year after a $320 million renovation. The resort now features 726 newly enhanced guest rooms, new dining options and a reimagined lobby. A new, adults-only Lanai Tower adds another 94 luxurious guest rooms, a chef-driven restaurant, rooftop lounge, new pool deck, and virtual entertainment center, as well as new meeting space—bringing the resort’s total to 100,000 sq. ft.

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples sits on 3 miles of pristine beachfront and offers access to 36 holes of championship golf at nearby The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Its spa features more than 30 treatment rooms. Luxury guest rooms number 450, and indoor and outdoor meeting space totals 42,000 sq. ft., including two-story, gulf-front Beach House.

Naples Grande Beach Resort (pictured) has newly renovated public spaces marked by edgy touches and modern decor, plus $2 million worth of enhancements to its Vista Ballroom and lobby lounge. It offers 83,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, and there are 424 guest rooms and suites in the 18-floor main tower and 50 garden villa suites nearby. Its private golf course is a 15-minute drive away.

The Beaches of Fort Myers, Sanibel & Captiva

Inventive events, sand between the toes

Lee County, which encompasses Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral and Pine Island, took its Hurricane Irma pounding, too, but was spared major damage. The worst the storm inflicted on Fort Myers’ historic McGregor Boulevard area, for example, was to uproot a 100-year-old banyan tree. Somewhere, old Henry Ford and Thomas Edison must be smiling. Their favorite getaway from wintery weather is still able to captivate new arrivals, including groups in search of a lovely, laid-back setting.

There’s nothing hustle-bustle about this area, which has been popular among retirees for generations. The slower pace encourages relaxation and rejuvenation—and pensive pastimes such as shelling, for which Sanibel Island, in particular, is famed.

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral will unveil its new, 30,000-square-foot conference center early next year. Following a few months later: the $15 million Tarpon Point Ballroom, with 12,250 sq. ft. of flexible space for up to 1,400 guests. The conference center will also include an expansive new terrace overlooking the Caloosahatchee River estuary. In addition, 30 two-bedroom suites—there are 263 guest rooms in all—are being converted to one-bedroom suites and traditional guest rooms.

On the affordable front, Drury Inn & Suites Fort Myers at I-75 and Gulf Coast Town Center opened recently with 180 suites and meeting space. And TownePlace Suites by Marriott Fort Myers/Estero, an extended-stay hotel, opened with 114 units and 400 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, on 26 acres in Bonita Springs, debuted Lazy River, a $7.1 million water park with three waterslides, including a winding, 900-foot inner-tube slide. The resort offers 454 guest rooms and more than 82,500 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.

But the biggest news is that Luminary Hotel & Co., a new 237-room hotel along the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers, plans to open in early 2019. The 12-story hotel, which will have 8,000 sq. ft. of function space, will be connected to neighboring Harborside Event Center. Luminary Hotel & Co. will feature a signature seafood restaurant, rooftop lounge, culinary theater called The Workshop (in honor of Thomas Edison) and spacious pool area overlooking the river. The hotel will be a part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

Don’t Miss

Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers are much more than the gracious winter homes of two of America’s most famous disrupters. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who became close friends over their winters there, arrived by boat, because roads to the frigid North were yet to be built. Today, the 20-acre estates include Edison Botanical Laboratory, Florida’s first National Historic Chemical Landmark, as well as inventions, artifacts and special exhibits that offer insight into these two singular men. Event spaces include museum and exhibition galleries, a broad lawn along Caloosahatchee River for up to 300 and a caretaker’s cottage.

Meet Here Now

Harborside Event Center in downtown Fort Myers, with 75,000 sq. ft. of event space, is completing a yearlong renovation that will perfectly complement the brand-new Luminary Hotel & Co. being raised next door. The largest room is 30,000 sq. ft., and there are 14 meeting rooms. Outdoor space includes a delightful pier overlooking the Caloosahatchee River.

South Seas Island Resort on tiny but enchanting Captiva Island has its own 330-acre nature preserve, plus 2 1/2 miles of beach. Outdoor adventures such as eco-cruises, nature tours and fishing are available, as well as golf, tennis and water sports. Lodging options—471 units in all—range from hotel rooms to seaside villas. Indoor and outdoor function space totals 35,591 sq. ft., and there’s lawn space for 5000.

‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island dates to 1931 and has not lost its vintage charm. The 13-acre classic has 138 accommodations, including eclectic cottages that once sheltered visiting fishermen in quest of sailfish and marlin. The resort’s 5,310 sq. ft. of meeting space includes Captiva House, which hosts up to 150.

Tampa, St. Petersburg & Clearwater

On fire and arty, with beloved beaches

Predictable is no longer a word anyone should use to describe this trio of Gulf Coast destinations. Where once retirees and budget-package tourists flocked, now look around and see for yourself—a younger, artsy vibe with a building boom to match.

It begins at the airport. As part of a $2 billion expansion at Tampa International Airport (TPA), new shops and restaurants include the only Hard Rock Cafe in an airport.

It continues downtown. Tampa Bay’s Riverwalk offers so much to do and see that is an event-planner’s dream. “Tampa has really flourished as a cultural destination in recent years, thanks in large part to the addition of the Riverwalk, which lets you easily walk or bike along the scenic riverfront to Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Museum of Art and many other top-notch museums and theaters,” says Tom Haines, general manager of Epicurean Hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection boutique property in SoHo entertainment district with 4,825 sq. ft. of conference space.

Tampa Bay is a diverse city that has always welcomed new people and cultures—pirates, shipping merchants, Cuban immigrants who rolled cigars and infused everything they touched with their espiritu y sabor (spirit and flavor).

Across the bay, St. Petersburg is attracting start-up entrepreneurs, and keeping them amused with hipster restaurants, off-beat shopping and outre cultural attractions, such as The Dali Museum. Of course, there will always be the unbeatable sand. St. Petersburg Beach is rated No. 4 in the nation by TripAdvisor, and Clearwater’s is—bongo beat, please—No. 1.

St. Pete and Clearwater have added 2,000 hotel rooms in the past two years. And renovations have kept pace, as well. Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, which sits prettily on 10 beachfront acres, offers 40,000 sq. ft. of flexible event space, including four beachside covered decks. Beach House Suites provides 70 new guest rooms to pair with its magnificent sister property, The Don CeSar.

Don’t Miss

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa offers interactive programs, educational camps and tens of thousands of fish, including sleek sand tiger sharks and the famous Flip, an endangered green sea turtle. Boat excursions, snorkeling and diving are options, and groups of 15 or more can reserve their discount and spot in advance. Besides the dining room surrounded by fins, there is the new Mosaic Center, a panoramic addition to the aquarium, with views of Harbor Island, Garrison Channel and Channelside District.

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